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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #5

Catfights, purikura and balls - oh my!

Welcome to Amateur vs. Expert, a new column wherein noted anime layperson Nick Robinson (Babylonian) squares off against anime savant Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt). The goal? To take our two columns, Anime Amateur and Anime Examiner, and combine them for your reading pleasure. Let's get started!

Nick Robinson:

First of all, let's get this out of the way: the fact that this episode was called anything other than "Yu and Ai" is probably the biggest oversight of 2011. Like, seriously! So obvious!

That said, I thought this otherwise was a pretty good, highly efficient episode. By rolling Kou Ichijo and Ai Ebihara's sidestories into one episode, they were able to get two of the S-Link stories out of the way at once. Dedicating an entire episode early on to non-essential social link stuff pretty much gets them off the hook for the rest of the series, but no one can accuse them of underutilizing the characters, because we just got 25 minutes of nonstop Ai and Kou stuff.

Still, I could have used a bit more inadvertent, Tobias Fünke-like ball humor from Kou. Maybe next time. What was your take on this episode, Kris?

Kristoffer Remmell:

This series has had some pretty unbelieving things going on, and I'm able to brush it all aside. This episode crossed the line. To think that you could have two high school girls smacking each other around at a basketball game and only one person noticed...... Inconceivable!! Seriously, I have to admit that seeing Ai get so pissed that she smacks Chie across the face was quite the shock, then Chie gave her one back. In the game, Ai was interested in Daisuke Nagase, and Kou never mentioned liking Chie. Which is perfectly fine in trying to condense the narrative. Seeing how they Rank 10ed these social links in a single episode. It makes me wonder how S.Links will go for Yu with the main female cast.

This episode felt sort of along the lines of a comedy sitcom, but it was nice given all the recent angst and symbolism we've had. I don't mind the drop in action for an episode to tell a story, and it also means more Persona to see for the future. We can see there is a payoff to these events. I just find it more awkward that the real plot relevant event was placed after the ending credit. Though, the series has had these scenes after the end theme long enough that no one should be surprised about it.

I would like to draw some attention to one aspect of the episode. I noticed that Ai Ebihara really liked to toss around the word "ai" and wanted Yu to use it. That's not a word that gets tossed around in the Japanese language lightly. More often you will hear people use the term "suki", which means "like". If you want to be more passionate. You'd say "daisuki", which would mean "really like". Using "aishiteru" is basically telling someone that you are seriously in love with them.

Nick Robinson:

Dag, that's something I never would have picked up on! Between that and your past observations about their motivations for naming the protagonist Yu, it seems totally possible that the "Yu and Ai" wordplay was deliberate. Bravo, P4A producers!

Like you alluded to, this was a violent-ass episode. Between the totally odd Ai vs. Chie catfight and Dojima straight up punching Adachi in his head, there was a lot of cast-on-cast injury this week. That slap war during the (fantastic-looking) climactic basketball scene did stand out to me as weird, but for whatever reason, the fact that no one but Yosuke noticed didn't seem that strange. It was just a practice game, so it's not like there was anyone there but the players and the two managers, right? Still, if you want to talk about how totally crazy it was that Chie and Ai's first interaction with each other ever was an actual physical altercation, then yeah, I'm right there with you, brother.

You're right that the only real plot stuff in this episode was in the post-credits bit, which is strange, but like a friend of mine pointed out, the truly upsetting thing about this episode's ending is how they totally glossed over this scene. Unforgivable! Still, I thought Yu's exhausted sigh at the end of the episode proper was a pretty great character moment for the guy. As much distaste as I have for him as a lead character, it's perfectly in line with his personality so far that getting caught up in the middle of all this weird drama would be nothing but draining for the poor dude. It was a nice touch, I thought.

Oh, you know what's totally worth bringing up? This episode was our first formal introduction to Aika Nakamura, a brand-new character created specifically for P4A! She's a classmate at Yasogami High and the heir to the Aiya Chinese restaurant, and while I doubt she'll play any sort of hugely significant role in the main plot of the game, I'm also sure we haven't seen the last of her. She doesn't really have any personality to speak of yet, but honestly, if we get to learn through her about the awesome guy who runs the shop in the game, that alone will make her a valuable addition to the show.

For all the increasingly bold changes they're making to the Persona 4 we know and love, they've also maintained their slavish devotion to duplicating the game. To me, that's a good thing and a bad thing. I mean, I still really don't like Yu as a protagonist; he's awkward and weirdly quiet, and it's tough to buy the other characters acting like he's anything other than a blank slate. Seeing the colorful, intense personalities that make up the cast of this game fawning over this whispery, uninteresting grey-haired kid is a little off-putting.

On the other side of that, they know who this show is for, and as a result, there's tons of great fan touches: the fact that Yu had "Love is Over" from Catherine as his ringtone for Ai is a fantastic touch in a lot of ways. Likewise, it seems like pretty much every over-the-head emote from the game made an appearance in this episode: the sweat drop, the flowers, the frustration squiggles. I'm still wrestling with the idea that if I wasn't a Persona 4 fan going in, I would not care about this show at all, but since that isn't the case, I'll continue to happily shovel this fanservice mélange right into my eyes' mouths.

Kristoffer Remmell:

Oh, I loved that scene of Dojima just popping Adachi in the head. It's all a little slap stick, but it was honestly funny. I thought the cat fight showed me even more why I like Chie. This episode summed up Ai and Kou's S.Link to Level 10 within an episode. It has me wondering if the series will be touching on any of the S.Links with Yu and any of the main female cast. Before, I would have said no way, but this series has made it a practice to go beyond my expectations. Will there be a Christmas night scene with someone?

That is kind of interesting that they would introduce a new character to this Persona 4 cast not from the game. It's curious, but Yosuke seemed to know her. As I think about it, there were a lot of gaps in time for the Persona 4 game that there was nothing to do. It was time for S.Linking and jobs. I wonder if they would be creating some more Midnight Channel adventures for the anime with this new addition.

I would like to think that if this wasn't based on a great game that I'd still be watching it. Though, I'm a big fan of murder mysteries. Having Yu being being so dead pan I think makes him a great character to play off all these personalities. He's the straight man. He has some great lines, and I still think he'll becomes a bit more emotional as the series goes on.

In conclusion, we were given a fun episode that got some laughs out of me. It's showing they aren't following the game's story to the letter, and there are some who will rant that's a good or bad thing. I like that this isn't trying to be a one for one translation from the game. It gives us a chance to enjoy the side stories mixed in with the main plot without taking up too much time. As I've already said, these stories also mean we could get to see more Persona in the future. Now, we toss it off to the readers. What were your thoughts?

Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

Nick Robinson (Babylonian) is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!

Hailinelon Nov. 9, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.

@Turambar said:

@FoxxFireArt said:

@Turambar:

I don't see that as forcing anything. I see it as a great opportunity to tell more stories and actually have a reason for it.

The episode felt like a sitcom, but they've only done this once, so far. As long as they don't do this too often. I don't see a problem with it.

When you don't have enough episodes available to actually do the S.Links justice, contriving yourself into a corner that forces you to do all S.Links is not a good idea.

They have forced themselves into a corner both via battle mechanics (available persona are limited to only S.linked arcanas) and thematically (The end of episode 5, the closing credits show 22 cards falling. The P4 world has 22 Arcanas total.)

Only two cards fall; Moon and Strength.

As for the idea that the Social Links aren't being done justice, or that the writers are backing themselves into a corner by doing Social Link-specific episodes, I'll repeat what I said in metalsnakeszero's thread on Giant Bomb. This is an adaptation first and foremost. No matter how faithful the adaptation may be, even if it's something as insanely faithful to the source material as the first Harry Potter movie, something always has to be condensed or cut out.

The Social Links, as important as they are in the game, are also for the most part optional. You're not required to complete all of them, and natural story progression only completes a select few. Further, because a Social Link can be left alone indefinitely once started, the game introduces the narrative contrivance that the Link's subject will be in the exact same state they're in now three months down the line. For example, starting the Drama Club Social Link with Yumi, getting to the point where you meet her at the hospital for the first time, and then just leaving her alone for however long until you finally drag your butt back to Drama Club the following semester; Yumi behaves as if only a day or two, or maybe a week has passed when instead she should probably be wondering just where the heck you've been this whole time.

That's why it's better if the anime resolves Social Links in the span of an episode or two. Not only does it give more time for other events, but it also allows stories to be condensed down to a time frame that feels more natural. And if the argument is "Why is Kou telling Yu this secret that he's only told Daisuke before?", well, Yu had already shown himself to be a more supportive teammate than the other players, given their penchant to ditch Kou at clean-up, and Yu had demonstrated an interest in things such as what sort of girls Kou prefers.

It's true that the episode didn't touch on Kou's issues with his family, but once again, that's the nature of an adaptation. Some things get cut down. It wasn't important for the narrative of this particular story, which was the focus on the relationship between Yu, Ai, and Kou as a group, and not the normally isolated manner of storytelling via Social Link, where, for the most part, characters seem to live within bubbles that rarely allow intermingling.

That the show's writers chose to go this route is not a detriment. Even though many of the Social Links are optional in the game, they are still a major part of gameplay. They also carry a significant thematic importance to the story that carries through all the way to the game's end. If the anime were to ignore them, it wouldn't just be eliminating potential fan service; it would be removing a major element of what makes the world outside of the TV tick.

MorkaiTheWolfon Nov. 9, 2011 at 6:52 p.m.

I'm glad to see a well written article on the P4 anime-ish thing. Guess I should check it out for myself now. ;)

PewPewLazerson Nov. 9, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.

@Ryu_Kishin said:

I disliked the catfight scene as well, Chie would have kicked her ass. They spent the previous two episodes establishing that she's a tough chick. This show doesn't have have the investigation team fighting themselves but Chie's physicality is a major part of her character that is shown through her persona and a lot of her actions.

For the most part she just imitates what she has seen in movies, it was never established at any point that she was particularly skilled at fighting. I mean you can pretty much glean that from all her goofy fight animations in the game.

The Kou S-Link being glossed over is perfectly captured in these comments, I had forgotten about the whole situation involving his parents/adoption until someone mentioned it above. But you know I would never expect them to spend more than an episode on that arc, there is plenty of story to stew through regardless of S-Link shenanigans. They will only bother to include the school S-Links if any outside of the main team if I had to wager a guess.

I'm not holding my breath for Death to be included, damn those Sundays down by the river sure are a downer!

TowerSixteenon Nov. 9, 2011 at 7:46 p.m.

Hmmm...I'm sort of hoping that it's not really "This is the Kou/Ai episode, lets never see them again." I realize that they compressed the entire social links here, but that's fine cause I suspect the characters will now play minor roles in a bunch of other places in other social links and school events. I'd prefer that than just an extended recapping of stuff in the game, anyway.

Turambaron Nov. 9, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.
@Hailinel: 22 cards fall.  You can count them.  Moon and Strength are the last two.  The other twenty fall before it.
 
And again, no, the S.Links are not done well.  I can state how the pacing is rushed, characterizations poor, motivations lacking, and defining traits glossed over, but there's no need for me to repeat myself yet again.  
 
If your defense for the show continues to be "it is an adaptation", then the job that was done is even less satisfactory.  The show has two demographics to appeal to: people that know the S.Link for what they were originally in their uncut form, and new viewers that simply wants a coherent tale.  An proper adaptation is meant to appease the former and satisfy the latter.  By discarding or glossing over the defining moments of both S.Links, Kou's family identity and Ai's "tragic" past, the show has already managed to disenfranchise the former.  By allowing for such shoddy pacing and nonsensical character actions, it serves to do nothing but confuse and annoy new viewers.  5 minutes of on-screen interaction will not is not enough to justify Kou's reveal just as it is not enough to justify Narukami's sudden submissive relationship with Ai no matter how much you choose to reason to yourself that it is.
 
Further, these two S.Links, both school related, are, along with two others (hanged man and whatever the culture club one is), the two most easily slipped into Narukami's daily life.  If they are already done this shoddily, I shudder to think how in the world they are going to slip something like the Death arcana in there with out making it seem even more out of place as a random side plot. 
Hailinelon Nov. 9, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.

@Turambar: I disagree. As someone that is very deeply a fan of the game and its characters, I don't feel disenfranchised in the least by the choices made in what to include and what to condense or drop. I've really, truly, and honestly enjoyed every minute of the show thus far and have had no problem with the way anything has been adapted. You might consider it a travesty or an insult, but I happen to think that it's pretty cool. I don't need every inch of a Social Link's backstory covered to feel that their appearance in the series is truly justified in any sense.

Will a newcomer unfamiliar with the game not understand all of Kou or Ai's motivations? No, probably not. Will it matter? No, probably not, specifically because enough of each character is related to at least give the viewer an understanding of where the characters are coming from. Ai was bullied, worked hard to become pretty, and can't understand why she has trouble with others. Kou has family concerns; though those specific concerns are glossed over, it's apparent that he's at least pondering dropping basketball to attend to them. That's really all the viewer needs to know.

Babylonian staff on Nov. 10, 2011 at 2:40 a.m.

@Turambar said:

They have forced themselves into a corner both via battle mechanics (available persona are limited to only S.linked arcanas) and thematically (The end of episode 5, the closing credits show 22 cards falling. The P4 world has 22 Arcanas total.)

You know television shows aren't made one episode at a time from start to finish, right? Like, you keep using the phrase "forced themselves into a corner," but this has been their plan with the show since before episode 1. The S-Link → New Persona → Battle formula is one they decided on before the show began, and it actually mirrors the act of playing Persona 4 pretty excellently.

I dunno. Is it all a little contrived and overdistilled? Sure! But I ain't mad at it!

mutha3on Nov. 10, 2011 at 5:03 a.m.

@Babylonian said:

You know television shows aren't made one episode at a time from start to finish, right? Like, you keep using the phrase "forced themselves into a corner," but this has been their plan with the show since before episode 1. The S-Link → New Persona → Battle formula is one they decided on before the show began, and it actually mirrors the act of playing Persona 4 pretty excellently.

I dunno. Is it all a little contrived and overdistilled? Sure! But I ain't mad at it!

Well, yeah, but it was a very poor choice. You can put yourself into a corner through premeditated actions, you know! Being stilted and contrived isn't its only problem with the idea, and I don't think that was what @Turambar: was really getting at -- I think its more that this format forces their hand to spend an entire episode on characters like Kou and Ai and messes up the pacing something fierce.

Its been mentioned before, but they could have easily just spent the time wasted on ancillary S-links on developing the core group(Yu,Yosuke, Chie,Yukiko,Kanji,Naoto,Teddie,Nanako,Dojima,Adachi). < this is a BIG group by the way!....One might even say that it almost stretches the limits of what a 25 episode show can handle in main characters.

Try to think about this show through the lens of a non p4-fan: Its, like, the most filler ass thing imaginable!"here's some blue-haired kid who'll probably never appear again, telling the main character his life story in the span of five minutes"

I'd probably be scratching my head really hard and never watch this show again.

Hailinelon Nov. 10, 2011 at 7:04 a.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Babylonian said:

You know television shows aren't made one episode at a time from start to finish, right? Like, you keep using the phrase "forced themselves into a corner," but this has been their plan with the show since before episode 1. The S-Link → New Persona → Battle formula is one they decided on before the show began, and it actually mirrors the act of playing Persona 4 pretty excellently.

I dunno. Is it all a little contrived and overdistilled? Sure! But I ain't mad at it!

Well, yeah, but it was a very poor choice. You can put yourself into a corner through premeditated actions, you know! Being stilted and contrived isn't its only problem with the idea, and I don't think that was what @Turambar: was really getting at -- I think its more that this format forces their hand to spend an entire episode on characters like Kou and Ai and messes up the pacing something fierce.

Its been mentioned before, but they could have easily just spent the time wasted on ancillary S-links on developing the core group(Yu,Yosuke, Chie,Yukiko,Kanji,Naoto,Teddie,Nanako,Dojima,Adachi). < this is a BIG group by the way!....One might even say that it almost stretches the limits of what a 25 episode show can handle in main characters.

Try to think about this show through the lens of a non p4-fan: Its, like, the most filler ass thing imaginable!"here's some blue-haired kid who'll probably never appear again, telling the main character his life story in the span of five minutes"

I'd probably be scratching my head really hard and never watch this show again.

You really aren't giving the show or the audience enough credit. Kou doesn't spend five minutes explaining his life story. He only tells Yu enough about his life that is easy enough to digest for the span of the TV episode; enough that people should be able to care about him without feeling overwhelmed by the aspects of a minor secondary character. You're not unfamiliar with Persona 4, so for you to judge the show based on how people unfamiliar with the game will judge it seems absurd.

Gerhabioon Nov. 26, 2011 at 4:18 p.m.

Dojima punching Mr. Creepy Raper Guy was disturbing, there was nothing light about it. It really unsettled me and turned me off the moment. What were they thinking when doing that scene?

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